Of Awful Connections, East German Primitives, and the New Black Berlin Wall. Germany and German History in African-American Literature

Darryl Pinckney’s Black Deutschland (2016), Paul Beatty’s Slumberland (2008), and John A. Williams’ Clifford’s Blues (1999) are three recent novels by African-American authors and with African-American protagonists that are set partly in Germany and that include references to events such as the Holocaust and German Reunification. The research project took these novels as points of departure for an investigation that analyzed the images of Germany and German history in African-American literature from a transnational, comparative perspective.

Drawing on a theoretical framework that connects comparative imagology, Black Diaspora Studies, and the recent academic focus on (world) literature’s “multidirectional memory” (Michael Rothberg) and its “cosmopolitan style” (Rebecca Walkowitz), the project focussed on four historically diverse, cross-cultural discourses that were relevant in shaping the role of Germany and German history in African-American literature:

  1. the formation of a “canonic” African-American image of postromantic Wilhelminian Germany that started with William E. B. Du Bois’ student years in Berlin (1892–1894);

  2. the interwar period and the intertwining sub-discourses of the Old World as “racial haven” (R. Coles) for African-American intellectuals, and of Berlin as the “European capital of sexual libertinage”;

  3. National Socialism and its relations and parallels to racism in the U.S.;

  4. African-American perceptions of Germany as a divided and/or reunified country.
EU Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship 2019–2023
Head researcher(s): Gianna Zocco


Sandra Folie, Gianna Zocco (ed./eds.)

Sketches of Black Europe in African and African Diasporic Narratives
CompLit. Journal of European Literature, Arts and Society

n° 6
Classiques Garnier, Paris 2024, 257 pages
ISSN 2782-0874; ISBN 978-2-406-16075-5
Katharina Edtstadler, Sandra Folie, Gianna Zocco (ed./eds.)

New Perspectives on Imagology

Studia Imagologica vol. 30
Brill, Berlin 2022, 432 pages
ISBN 978-90-04-45012-7 (Print), 978-90-04-51315-0 (PDF)
Gianna Zocco (ed./eds.)

The Rhetoric of Topics and Forms

XXI. Congress of the ICLA: The Many Languages of Comparative Literature – Proceedings vol. 4
de Gruyter, Berlin 2021, 584 pages
ISBN 978-3-11-064148-6 (Print); 978-3-11-064203-2 (E-Book PDF); 978-3-11-064198-1 (E-Book EPUB)

Gianna Zocco


23 Mar 2022 – 25 Mar 2022

Sketches of Black Europe. Imagining Europe/ans in African and African Diasporic Narratives

Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Etage

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